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F the Application of too great a Part of my Time to the unprofitable Love and Study of Poetry, has been an Imputation, perhaps, juftly enough charg'd upon me; I am bound, by the firft Principles of Duty and Gratitude, to own, that it is by Your Grace's immediate Goodness that I have
at length an Opportunity of turning my Thoughts a better and more useful Way. The Honour of Your Grace's Protection and Favour, has fomething in it which ‹diftinguishes it felf from that of other Great Men; the Benefit of it is extenfive, and to have a fhare in Your Grace's good Opinion, is to be entitled, at least, to fome Efteem and Regard from Your Grace's illuftrious Friends, that is, from those who fill up the firft and best Rank of Mankind. Whatever I am or can be, (if I am ever to be any thing) is all Your Grace's. It is an Acknowledgment that I make, with as much Satisfaction as Pride, and I don't know whether the Obligation I lye under, or the Benefit I receive from it, be capable of giving me the greater Pleasure. Some Dependances are indeed a Pain, tho' they bring confiderable Advantages along with them; but where there is a gracious Temper, an eafie Condefcenfion, and a Readiness to do Good equal to the Magnificence of the Giver, the Value of that Gift, muft certainly be very much enhanc'd. 'Tis my particular Happiness, that Your Grace is the beft Benefactor I could have; for as I am capable
of making no Return, Your Grace never thinks of receiving one. I have indeed one thing still to beg, That as Your Grace receiv'd me into Your favourable Opinion, without any Pretenfion that could be made on my fide, I may have the Honour to continue there, by my firft Title, Your Grace's meer Goodness.
Tho' it be high time to disclaim those Studies, with which I have amus'd my felf and other People, yet I could not take leave of an Art I have long lov'd, without commending the best of our Poets to the Protection of the best Patron. I have fometimes had the Honour to hear Your Grace express the particular Pleasure you have taken in that Greatnefs of Thought, those natural Images, those Paffions finely touch'd, and that beautiful Expreffion which is every where to be met with in Shakespear. And that he may still have the Honour to entertain Your Grace, I have taken fome Care to redeem him from the Injuries of former Impreffions. I must not pretend to have reftor'd this Work to the Exactness of the Author's Original Manuscripts: Those are loft, or, at least, are gone beyond any Inquiry I could
could make; so that there was nothing left, but to compare the several Editions, and give the true Reading as well as I could from thence. This I have endeavour'd to do pretty carefully, and render'd very many Places Intelligible, that were not fo before. In fome of the Editions, especially the last, there were many Lines, (and in Hamlet one whole Scene) left out together; these are now all fupply'd. I fear Your Grace will ftill find fome Faults, but I hope they are mostly litteral, and the Errors of the Prefs. Such as it is, it is the best Present of English Poetry I am capable of making Your Grace. And I believe I fhall be thought no unjust Disposer of this, the Author's Estate in Wit, by humbly Offering it where he would have been proud to have Bequeath'd it.
The Present Age is indeed an unfortunate one for Dramatick Poetry; the has been persecuted by Fanaticism, forfaken by her Friends, and oppress'd even by Mufick, her Sifter and confederate Art, that was formerly employ'd in her Defence and Support. In fuch perillous Times, I know no Protection for Shakespear, more Safe nor more Honourable than Your Grace's: 'Tis the best